Removal of cataracts by laser is expensive, unproven, and until recently not available on the NHS, but a trial at Moorfields Eye Hospital is comparing it with the standard treatment and Sue Dickinson who paid for the procedure is very happy with the result.

By Ruth Wood

Sue Dickinson was accustomed to driving in the dark. Having worked as a cab driver, she was happy to chauffer her teenage grandsons Jack and George all over the country to play academy football, and was often on the road at night. But about three years ago, she realised something was wrong.
“I noticed my night vision wasn’t brilliant,” says the 67-year-old from West London. “I’d found out from a regular check-up when I was 60 that I had cataracts coming on, but it hadn’t bothered me at first.” She realised now, however, that she had to take action. Rather than opt for traditional cataracts surgery on the NHS, she decided to use her private medical insurance to help pay for femtosecond laser treatment at a private clinic in North London run by Optegra. Under this procedure, which costs upwards of £2,500 per eye, an ultra-fast “femtosecond” laser breaks up the cataracts. It is widely held by private clinics to be the safer and superior option.
Sue paid extra to have her short-sightedness corrected during the same procedure so she would no longer need glasses. Both her eyes were done over three weeks, with each procedure taking just 20 minutes.
She is one of hundreds of Britons diagnosed with cataracts every day, all of whom have two options: free treatment on the NHS or this latest form of laser treatment chosen by Sue, which has hitherto only been available privately. But the country’s biggest eye hospital is now making laser surgery for cataracts available on the NHS for the first time. A trial involving 800 cataract patients at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London will compare laser with standard surgery, looking at visual outcomes, quality of life and complication rates.
Mark Wilkins, the consultant ophthalmologist leading the trial, is confident the laser method will come out on top, laying the foundations for it to become routinely available on the NHS. “Laser surgery for cataracts is the future,” he says. “But there is a lot of hype and money surrounding this technology and so far the potential benefits are unproven.”…..
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Source: The Telegraph